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Kevern Verney

The fact that Ling's reflections appear in the introduction to his biographical study of Martin Luther King highlights a paradox in the historiography of the postwar civil rights movement. Namely that historians working in this field have displayed a tendency to focus their research on biographical studies of leading individuals. ‘Biographical accounts’, as the American historian Charles W. Eagles noted, have ‘from the beginning and throughout the 1990s’ proved to be ‘perhaps the most popular form of study of the Civil Rights Movement’, both for ‘scholars and other

in The debate on black civil rights in America, Second edition
Kevern Verney

study of Martin Luther King highlights a paradox in the historiography of the post-war Civil Rights Movement, namely that historians working in this field have displayed a consistent tendency to focus their research on biographical studies of leading individuals. ‘Biographical accounts’, as the American historian Charles W. Eagles has noted, have ‘from the beginning and throughout the 1990s’ proved to be ‘perhaps the most popular form of study of the Civil Rights Movement’, both for ‘scholars and other writers’. 2 This was especially the case in respect to the first

in The Debate on Black Civil Rights in America
Open Access (free)
An Excerpt from Bill V. Mullen’s New Biography, James Baldwin: Living in Fire, and an Interview with the Author
Bill V. Mullen

This excerpt from James Baldwin: Living in Fire details a key juncture in Baldwin’s life, 1957–59, when he was transformed by a visit to the South to write about the civil rights movement while grappling with the meaning of the Algerian Revolution. The excerpt shows Baldwin understanding black and Arab liberation struggles as simultaneous and parallel moments in the rise of Third World, anti-colonial and anti-racist U.S. politics. It also shows Baldwin’s emotional and psychological vulnerability to repressive state violence experienced by black and Arab citizens in the U.S., France, and Algiers.

James Baldwin Review
Open Access (free)
On James Baldwin and the Many Roles in Revolution
Nicholas Binford

Artists, scholars, and popular media often describe James Baldwin as revolutionary, either for his written work or for his role in the civil rights movement. But what does it mean to be revolutionary? This article contends that thoughtlessly calling James Baldwin revolutionary obscures and erases the non-revolutionary strategies and approaches he employed in his contributions to the civil rights movement and to race relations as a whole. Frequent use of revolutionary as a synonym for “great” or “important” creates an association suggesting that all good things must be revolutionary, and that anything not revolutionary is insufficient, effectively erasing an entire spectrum of social and political engagement from view. Baldwin’s increasing relevance to our contemporary moment suggests that his non-revolutionary tactics are just as important as the revolutionary approaches employed by civil rights leaders such as Malcolm X or Martin Luther King, Jr.

James Baldwin Review
Robert Jackson

This article provides an introduction to this special section of James Baldwin Review 7 devoted to Baldwin and film. Jackson considers Baldwin’s distinct approach to film criticism by pairing him with James Agee, another writer who wrote fiction as well as nonfiction in several genres, and who produced a large body of film criticism, especially during the 1940s. While Agee, a white southerner born almost a generation before Baldwin, might seem an unlikely figure to place alongside Baldwin, the two shared a great deal in terms of temperament and vision, and their film writings reveal a great deal of consensus in their diagnoses of American pathologies. Another important context for Baldwin’s complex relationship to film is television, which became a dominant media form during the 1950s and exerted a great influence upon both the mainstream reception of the civil rights movement and Baldwin’s reception as a public intellectual from the early 1960s to the end of his life. Finally, the introduction briefly discusses the articles that constitute this special section.

James Baldwin Review
James Baldwin, William F. Buckley, Jr., and the 1965 Cambridge Debate
Daniel Robert McClure

The 1965 debate at Cambridge University between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley, Jr., posed the question: “Has the American Dream been achieved at the Expense of the American Negro?” Within the contours of the debate, Baldwin and Buckley wrestled with the ghosts of settler colonialism and slavery in a nation founded on freedom and equality. Framing the debate within the longue durée, this essay examines the deep cultural currents related to the American racial paradox at the height of the Civil Rights movement. Underscoring the changing language of white resistance against black civil rights, the essay argues that the Baldwin and Buckley debate anticipated the ways the U.S. would address racial inequality in the aftermath of the civil rights era and the dawn of neoliberalism in the 1970s.

James Baldwin Review
Open Access (free)
Photography and Social Change in James Baldwin’s America
Makeda Best

This essay explores an exhibition at the Harvard Art Museums, installed in the fall of 2018, entitled Time is Now: Photography and Social Change in James Baldwin’s America.

James Baldwin Review
A Conversation with Bill V. Mullen, the author of James Baldwin: Living in Fire
William J. Maxwell
and
Bill V. Mullen

William J. Maxwell, editor of James Baldwin: The FBI File (2017), interviews Bill V. Mullen on his 2019 biography, James Baldwin: Living in Fire, along the way touching on both Baldwin’s early internationalism and his relevance to the current wave of racial discord and interracial possibility in the United States.

James Baldwin Review
Open Access (free)
James Baldwin and Malcolm X
Mikko Tuhkanen

Taking its cue from recent scholarly work on the concept of time in African American literature, this essay argues that, while both James Baldwin and Malcolm X refuse gradualism and insist on “the now” as the moment of civil rights’ fulfillment, Baldwin also remains troubled by the narrowness assumed by a life, politics, or ethics limited to the present moment. In his engagement with Malcolm’s life and legacy—most notably in One Day, When I Was Lost, his screen adaptation of Malcolm’s autobiography—he works toward a temporal mode that would be both punctual and expansive. What he proposes as the operative time of chronoethics is an “untimely now”: he seeks to replace Malcolm’s unyielding punctuality with a different nowness, one that rejects both calls for “patience,” endemic to any politics that rests on the Enlightenment notion of “perfectibility,” and the breathless urgency that prevents the subject from seeing anything beyond the oppressive system he wants overthrown. Both thinkers find the promise of such untimeliness in their sojourns beyond the United States.

James Baldwin Review
From Communism to Pluralism

This book reassesses a defining historical, political and ideological moment in contemporary history: the 1989 revolutions in central and eastern Europe. It considers the origins, processes and outcomes of the collapse of communism in eastern Europe. The book argues that communism was not simply an 'unnatural Yoke' around the necks of East Europeans, but was a powerful, and not entirely negative, historical force capable of modernizing societies, cultures and economies. It focuses on the interplay between internal and external developments as opposed to an emphasis on Cold War geopolitical power struggles and the triumphalist rhetoric of how the 'freedom-loving' USA 'defeated' the 'totalitarian' Soviet Union. The book also approaches the East European revolutions from a variety of angles, emphasizing generational conflicts, socio-economic and domestic aspects, international features, the 'Gorbachev factor', and the role of peace movements or discourses on revolution. It analyses the peace movements in both parts of Germany during the 1980s from a perspective that transcends the ideological and geopolitical divides of the Cold War. The history of the East German peace movement has mostly been written from the perspective of German unification in 1989-1990. Many historians have read the history of the civil rights movement of 1989-1990 backwards in order to show its importance, or ignored it altogether to highlight the totalitarian character of the German Democratic Republic.